by Mike McNamee Published 02/02/2015
We tested six media. The names are confusing to the newcomer and so you should commit both the name and the weight to memory to assist your identification.
The heritage of the mill shows in that it houses one of the last mould mills in the world and it is the wool felt on the roller which imparts the surface texture to a media. The felt wears relatively quickly and so the papers are actually unique from batch to batch. If a smooth finish is required the paper is callendered between smooth rollers to create the featureless surface (which is obviously more consistent). The mould-machine finish is that which is typical of any good watercolour paper.
The pure cotton rag base for the range (except Bockingford) imparts a soft feel to the papers and also has a bearing on their ink absorption. They are classed as 'soft' in the art world which in watercolour painting implies a certain spread of paint in wet conditions - 'wet into wet' technique is frequently used for soft fluffy cloud effects.
The 'softness' of the papers leads to a loss of Dmax as the ink penetrates away from the surface and into the body of the paper. With the exception of the Photo Satin 300, the papers generally have lower Dmax values.
All the media, other than the Bockingford, are active in the UV booth and this is confirmed by Fluorescence reading between 2.0 and 3.1. All the papers are very close to pure neutral, nothing gets even two Lab units away from the original of the plots.
It is a long time since your editor tested Somerset Enhanced papers. Indeed it pre-dates Professional Imagemaker and we eventually found the data in the archive of Digital Photographer, dated June 2001. In October 2007 we reviewed the Somerset Photo Range for Professional Imagemaker.
Timely, then, to review the output from the St Cuthbert's Mill and this time we brought to bear all the testing improvements that have been made in the intervening period of 14 years (it was an Epson 1270 back then).
Somerset Enhanced is a name that is probably more familiar to our States-side cousins; it is marketed by Epson over there and has always had a following. Maybe they like the history associated with the brand; the mill has been in Wells Somerset since the 1700s and the romantic names comes from Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne (for whom Durham Cathedral was built just to house his remains).
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